Posts for: November, 2015
One of the most widely used forms of dental imaging is the bitewing x-ray. So called because of the shape of the device that holds the exposable film a patient clenches between their back teeth, the bitewing x-ray is an effective means for detecting the earliest stages of tooth decay.
These early signs are small lesions on a tooth surface caused by mineral loss in the enamel. While we can identify them on front teeth through visual examination or bright lighting, they’re nearly impossible to see on the biting surfaces of back teeth. The bitewing x-ray solves this problem.
During the procedure, a narrow beam of x-rays is directed at the back teeth area. Since X-rays can transmit through solid matter, they pass through the teeth and gums to expose the film attached to the bitewing assembly.
X-rays pass through matter at different rates depending on the density of the tissue — a slower rate for harder tissues like teeth and bone and a faster rate for soft tissues like the gums. As a result, x-rays through teeth expose less of the film and appear as a lighter image than the gums. This difference is so precise even a tooth’s softer dentin appears slighter darker than its harder outer enamel.
This precision helps us identify decay lesions. Because the lesions on the enamel are less dense than the normal enamel, they’ll appear as dark spots. By detecting them at this stage we have a better chance for reversing the effects of decay or at least minimizing damage that’s already occurred.
Because x-rays emit radiation, there’s a natural concern about over-exposure and we go to great lengths to reduce it. Children may undergo a bitewing x-ray twice a year for developing teeth, while adults with healthy teeth are typically x-rayed just once a year. Advances in digital film and other technology have also helped lower the exposure rate.
Today’s standard 4-film bitewing x-ray produces about four days worth of what we receive on average from normal background radiation, so the health risk is quite negligible. The benefit, on the other hand, is much greater — the early detection of tooth decay could ultimately save a tooth.
Perhaps you’ve heard about dental sealants from your Milton, MA dentists Drs. John and Patrick Murphy but you’re not exactly sure what they are or how they could improve your oral health. Find out more about this wonderful preventive dentistry.
What are dental sealants?
These thin, plastic tooth-colored coatings are painted on the chewing surfaces of your back teeth (molars and premolars) to protect susceptible areas from dental decay. The sealant quickly and painlessly attaches to those pits and grooves in the tooth to provide an added layer of protection for healthy tooth enamel.
You might be wondering to yourself, “If I brush and floss do I need dental sealants?” After all, if you maintain good oral hygiene every day you may not think you need dental sealants. However, even while we can easily brush away food particles and plaque there are those little-hidden nooks that can be difficult for your brush to reach. These areas, particularly the back teeth, are susceptible to decay. By choosing dental sealants, you can protect your smile.
Who should consider getting dental sealants?
Children and teenagers are often the most common candidates for dental sealants because sealants offer a preventative way to ward off decay. But this doesn’t mean that adults can’t also get sealants. In fact, if you don’t have a filling or aren’t currently dealing with decay you too could benefit from this dental procedure.
Once those permanent molars and premolars come in (between the ages of 6 to 14) you will want to schedule an appointment with your Milton, MA family dentist to have sealants placed on your child or teen’s teeth. The sooner you can start protecting those at-risk teeth the better.
What should I expect when I get sealants in Milton, MA?
Getting sealants is a quick and painless process. Once we have thoroughly cleaned your teeth we will apply an acid solution onto the chewing surfaces. This solution is designed to rough up the tooth to help facilitate sealant bonding. Then your Milton, MA dentist will paint the sealant onto the tooth. While in some cases a special light can be used to harden a sealant many times the sealants naturally bonds and hardens to the tooth.
While dental sealants can last several years it’s important that you continue to properly care for your smile and also see us every six months for routine care. Only during these visits can we detect if the sealant is damaged or needs to be replaced. If it’s time your child got sealants, or if you need to schedule an upcoming visit, call the Murphy Dental Group today!
Sure, it’s big news when celebs tweet selfies from the dental office… if you’re still living in the 20th century. But in Hollywood today, it’s harder to say who hasn’t posted snaps of themselves in the dentist’s chair than who has. Yet the pictures recently uploaded to Twitter by Mark Salling, the actor and singer who regularly appears as Noah “Puck” Puckerman on the popular TV series Glee, made us sit up and take notice.
“Getting my chipped tooth fixed. Also, apparently, I’m a big grinder,” read the caption. The photo showed a set of upper front teeth with visible chips on the biting surface. What’s so special about this seemingly mundane tweet? It’s a great way of bringing attention to a relatively common, but often overlooked problem: teeth clenching and grinding, also called bruxism.
Although bruxism is a habit that affects scores of people, many don’t even realize they have it. That’s because the condition may only become active at night. When the teeth are unconsciously ground together, the forces they produce can wear down the enamel, cause chipping or damage to teeth or dental work (such as veneers or fillings), or even loosen a tooth! While it’s common in children under 11 years old, in adults it can be a cause for concern.
Sometimes, mouth pain, soreness and visible damage alert individuals to their grinding habits; other times, a dental professional will notice the evidence of bruxism during an exam or cleaning: tooth sensitivity and telltale wear and tear on the chewing surfaces. Either way, it’s time to act.
Bruxism is most often caused by stress, which can negatively impact the body in many ways. It may also result from bite problems, the overuse of stimulating substances (caffeine, alcohol, tobacco, and illegal drugs), and as a side effect of certain medications. Sometimes, simply becoming aware of the habit can help a person get it under control. Common methods of stress reduction include exercise, meditation, a warm bath or a quiet period before bedtime; these can be tried while we monitor the situation to see if the problem is going away.
If stress reduction alone doesn’t do the trick, several other methods can be effective. When bruxism is caused by a minor bite problem, we can sometimes do a minor “bite adjustment” in the office. This involves removing a tiny bit of enamel from an individual tooth that is out of position, bringing it in line with the others. If it’s a more serious malocclusion, orthodontic appliances or other procedures may be recommended.
When grinding is severe enough to damage teeth or dental work, we may also recommend a custom-made night guard (occlusal guard), which you put in your mouth at bedtime. Comfortable and secure, this appliance prevents your teeth from being damaged by contacting each other, and protects your jaw joints from stresses due to excessive grinding forces.
Whether or not you have to smile for a living, teeth grinding can be a big problem. If you would like more information about this condition, call our office to schedule a consultation for a consultation.